And she became involved in local politics for the first time since 1969

And so there is this (ouch!) Reminds my of the scene in the Lord of the Rings, when after fighting the Great War of the Ring and winning, Frodo returns to the Shire to find Saruman has taken up residence:

Mrs. Hanson, who is 81 and has been a library patron for nearly 50 years, was so bothered by the outsourcing contract that she became involved in local politics for the first time since 1969, when she worked for a recall movement related to the Vietnam War.

She drew up a petition warning that the L.S.S.I. contract would result in “greater cost, fewer books and less access,” with “no benefit to the citizens.” Using a card table in front of the main library branch, she gathered 1,200 signatures in three weekends.

Article here:

Anger as a Private Company Takes Over Libraries
By DAVID STREITFELD
Published: September 26, 2010
Library Systems & Services was hired to run the libraries of Santa Clarita, Calif., setting off an outsourcing debate.

And she became involved in local politics for the first time since 1969

It’s a strategy….

From Matt Yglesia’s recent post note this:

A separate issue is the welfare of the world’s poorest. Progressive internationalists have this kind of dopey vision of trying to make trade and immigration policy win-win-win for everyone by using redistributive taxation to ensure that everyone shares in the benefits. That sounds nice, but it means that in addition to trying to conquer people’s racist and nationalistic instincts you’re also engaged in a fight to pry wealth out of the hands of the wealthy and powerful. As a political strategy, it doesn’t really make much sense. Why not simply join forces with the wealthy and powerful so as to create a political coalition that’s plausibly capable of overwhelming xenophobia and creating borders that are relatively open to the flow of goods and labor?

Libertarianism is a strategy! Silly me! this whole time I believed that Libertarians were trying to promulgate some type of intellectually consistent philosophy/world view. But apparently, all it is is a method of picking who you align yourself with (the “wealthy and powerful”) and thereby getting power.

It’s a strategy….

Responding to “intelligent libertarianism”

a post in which eee_eff will not let certain oxymorons slide on by without notice…

Anytime I see the word “intelligent” close to the word “libertarian” in a recent (since 1993 or so) context, alarm bells start ringing.  So when I see this piece by Tyler Cowen (covering another piece by Matt Yglesias), I have to respond:

Matt Yglesias outlines an intelligent version of libertarianism

Picking up my previous request, Matt responds:

I think libertarianism is best understood as a kind of esoteric doctrine. There’s strong evidence to believe that people who overestimate their own efficacy in life wind up doing better than those with more accurate perceptions. It follows that it’s strongly desirable for society to be organized so as to bolster myths of meritocracy. This will lead to individual instances of injustice and to a lot of apparently preventable suffering, but over the long-term the aggregate impact of growth (which, of course, compounds) on human welfare will swamp this as long as we can maintain the spirit of capitalism.

A separate issue is the welfare of the world’s poorest. Progressive internationalists have this kind of dopey vision of trying to make trade and immigration policy win-win-win for everyone by using redistributive taxation to ensure that everyone shares in the benefits. That sounds nice, but it means that in addition to trying to conquer people’s racist and nationalistic instincts you’re also engaged in a fight to pry wealth out of the hands of the wealthy and powerful. As a political strategy, it doesn’t really make much sense. Why not simply join forces with the wealthy and powerful so as to create a political coalition that’s plausibly capable of overwhelming xenophobia and creating borders that are relatively open to the flow of goods and labor?

That is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for and both points make sense to me.  Here is a related Matt post on progressivism and America.

I would add that Matt’s description is consistent with my belief that the United States should be less progressive than the polities of north and western Europe.  For better or worse, most Europeans are more skeptical of claims of capitalist meritocracy and thus it is harder for them to realize gains by internalizing such an ethic.  Furthermore the non-progressive nature of many aspects of America — by encouraging economic dynamism — helps Europe to be as progressive as it is.  That’s an argument for American capitalism that both libertarians and progressives ought to feel slightly uncomfortable with, yet in my view it is compelling.

First, full disclosure:  I am an unrepentant Europhile, for which I will make no apologies.   Further, as an architect and an urbanist, my perspective is that we are uprooting our society from its traditional spatial and organizational roots, and this grand experiment needs to be called what it is: an experiment, with unknown results.  Libertarian proposals, were they enacted, would only speed this ongoing demolition of the public space.

I am also concerned that the libertarian/capitalist triumphalism stream of thought (cf Thomas Friedman) seems to distill everything down to a purely economic measure, which is exactly what those whom the libertarians worship but apparently very rarely ever read (e.g. Adam Smith, Schumpeter, von Hayek) warn against doing (here’s a post which includes a relevant quote of Schumpeter).   Of course, neither Tyler nor Yglesias stop to actually discuss the criteria or metrics they believe are important, so I’d invite them to clarify that point.

With the disclosure out of the way this is my reply:

Continue reading “Responding to “intelligent libertarianism””

Responding to “intelligent libertarianism”

Ministry of Truth at the TLF

At the Technology Liberation Front, where I sometimes comment, rude behavior has become the norm for two posters. Adam Thierer descends into silly name calling, which is fine (to a point) but Jerry Brito really takes the cake in that he has decided to (generally) delete my comments. I would draw the distinction between Adam and Jerry and others such as Tim Lee, who has been overwhelmingly well-behaved and thoughtful in his posts and follow-ups to my comments. Jerry, or someone managing his posts, had been deleting my comments to his posts in the past, as I have noted here.

Deletions of my comments are not happening on a global basis at TLF (my comments to Tim Lee or most of the others don’t get deleted) and my comments to Jerry’s posts don’t always go into the moderated queue, they actually show up on the website but get deleted later. Why would this happen unless my comments are being deleted by someone managing Jerry Brito’s posts? I had sent an email to Jerry at his George Mason University email address, to give him an opportunity to respond, and if he does I’ll certainly post it here.

The interesting question for me is: why do my comments aggravate Jerry so much that they he feels he has to delete them? If he disagrees with my comments, wouldn’t it be more in keeping with the TLF’s professed goals of a high quality debate to respond to them? The answer, I believe, is that they show the internal contradictions in “libertarian” philosophy, and thus can’t be responded to, and therefore get sent to the ‘memory hole’ as George Orwell called it.

It is especially ironic that there is a post at TLF complaining about the uses of “Big Brother” metaphor when describing non-governmental spying or censorship, and here they are exercising the ‘memory hole’ that would do the Ministry of Truth proud. Let’s see if my comments to that post stay or if they get deleted.

Continue reading “Ministry of Truth at the TLF”

Ministry of Truth at the TLF

The Self-Regulating Market requires state intervention

Tim Lee makes a couple of points about what he sees as the puzzling connections between free trade and protectionism, and he stumbles across the point I’d made earlier to one of Jerry Brito’s comments, (yes, the comment that Jerry can’t respond to, and therefore must censor) It’s a simple point that Karl Polanyi made in his excellent book The Great Transformation: that the self-regulating market requires state intervention, both for it’s creation and for its maintenance . So the creation of a self regulating market in copyrighted goods requires state intervention to create and maintain that market. But Tim, being a libertarian, can’t read or understand Polanyi, so he’s confused about why those who support free trade also support certain market interventions:

This is a fascinating question. One of the things I find really interesting about the 19th century political debate is that the opposing political coalitions were more sensibly aligned, perhaps because people had a slightly clearer sense of what was at stake. My impression (which may be wrong in its details) is that the free traders tended to be liberals and economic populists. They clearly understood that protectionism brought about a transfer of wealth from relatively poor consumers to relatively wealthy business interests. In the opposing coalition were a coalition of business interests and xenophobes making fundamentally mercantilist arguments about economic nationalism.

 

Karl Polanyi covers this period in his book The Great Transformation. His perspective is a little different.

First, Polanyi notes that those opposing the liberal agenda there were the defenders of the old order, ultimately derived from the feudal social structure, as well the working urban proletariat. Their interests never coincided and their visions of an alternative to the dominant liberal creed were so very different, it is not surprising that they never formed a united opposition. It is true that once the middle class realized that free trade meant cheaper food they were temporarily won over to its cause. But there were a few others who realized how disastrous free trade would be in the long run.

Second, Tim Lee, as all libertarians do, makes a whole series of informational exclusions about what comes along with liberalism. For example, it cannot be an accident that Great Britain, during the time of the ascendancy of liberal ideals, also maintained a very large colonial empire. Ultimately, adherence to the dogma of the self-regulating market requires state intervention to ensure that the prices of labor, land, and money are all controlled only by economic factors internal to that self-regulating market. When social, environmental, religious or national policies interfere with the operating of that self regulating market, state intervention is required. Case in point: US invasion of Iraq. When political ideals interfere with the functioning of the self-regulating market, state intervention is also called for by supporters of the market. Case in point: the DMCA. From this view, the fact that those who support the self-regulating market also support strong imposed patent, copyright and trademark laws is entirely consistent and unsurprising.

 

The bottom line is: you cannot separate the economic functioning of society from its broader social, political, environmental, national and social contexts, as liberals are wont to do. Human society just cannot be distilled into neatly separate fungible categories. They are all connected. Failure to come to grips with this reality is why libertarianism can only be maintained by making excluding whole categories of information.

Thus the following confusion on Tim’s part:

Today’s free trade debate is much weirder, because there are enough businesses who want to export things that significant parts of the business community are for freer trade. On the other hand, the liberals who fancy themselves defenders of relatively poor consumers find themselves in bed with predatory industries like sugar and stell that have been using trade barriers to gouge consumers. And the “trade” debate has increasingly come to be focused on issues that don’t actually have much to do with trade, whether it’s labor and environmental “standards,” copyright and patent requirements, working retraining programs, cross-border subsidies, etc.

Continue reading “The Self-Regulating Market requires state intervention”

The Self-Regulating Market requires state intervention

Drawing Boundaries Around Democracy (Tax Free Internet Edition)

Corporations have a long history of drawing lines around democracy, so they can escape the effects of the popular mandate. One of the most egregious examples of this was the creation of a town near East Saint Louis [present day Sauget] which was created by just one vote (the night watchman of the factory) in order to prevent the town of East Saint Louis from annexing and then taxing that same factory. The factory was thus enclosed by a boundary around democracy. That particular example is behind us, and I rather doubt that would happen today. It just wouldn’t fly.

That past event sheds light on a pattern of behavior, and it’s important to reverse that trend, to prevent future enclosures that steal from the larger society, without giving back. Today, there are plenty of ways that corporations use the internet to enclose their company, and seal it off from democratic institutions which might tax them. Of course, the anti-democratic reality of this enclosure is obscured by the language of freedom that is used to make the case for a “tax free” internet.

But there is one simple question that we can ask the libertarians that exposes the bankruptcy and anti-freedom agenda of the tax free world that they are trying to create. It is a question that libertarians cannot acknowledge, let alone answer.

Continue reading “Drawing Boundaries Around Democracy (Tax Free Internet Edition)”

Drawing Boundaries Around Democracy (Tax Free Internet Edition)

Peter Raven lecture

Heard Peter Raven lecture just last Friday, and it was excellent. Can’t find too much of his stuff online though, but here’s one link.

He was asked about ethanol by e_f to which he simply said “It is a terrible idea.” Finally, someone in Saint Louis, heart of the corn belt, saying the truth about ethanol.

But I was able to get the question in, and he answered at some length, referring to the food riots that are presently occurring all over the world.

Why don’t we have people like Peter Raven in positions where they can influence public policy more? It might have something to do with: the deliberately confused picture painted by the media, don’tcha think? A prime example can be found right over at Reason magazine’s website.

I find it interesting that ethanol was pushed like crazy by a few big corporations, but now that it is clear that ethanol is really, really bad for the environment there is a lot of revisionism going on. And that’s what the piece from Reason magazine “The Biofuel Brew ha-ha: How the greens are making it more expensive to get blotto” is: revisionism.

Apparently, now that ethanol has been outed and found to be just a little greener than open pit coal mining, the libertarian party line is: Let’s blame the greens!

Continue reading “Peter Raven lecture”

Peter Raven lecture